Retire, retired, retirement….When I read the definition of retire the word that catches me is withdraw. That word gives me an aha moment. Withdraw- to take back, to retreat. To take what back? To retreat from what? At this time and place I am taking back my sense of Being. Retiring from the incessant pressure to do in a world desperate for certainty and control. As I made this transition and shared it with people the question asked most often was, ‘What are you going to DO?” What’s next?” The answer I felt drawn to give was “Just BE. I’m just going to be. Wake and see where the day takes me.” Granted I have this opportunity because I’ve put in some time doing. Doing what is expected to get here. The real answer of what is next is to enjoy the Sabbath God provides, and know next will come along whether I’m ready or not. Other reactions to this transition have made me smile and reflect. One friend said, “You’re pretty young to be retired.” True. Another said, “Oh yeah, I know someone who retired early and was bored stiff within 2 months.” Sad. Retire doesn’t mean done living, or serving, or learning, or growing. At the end of the definition there is a brief line about winning permanent possession of (as a trophy). That is how I feel at this moment in time. I’ve won permanent possession of my God-given life, and as I retreat we’ll see what wonderful wilderness I end up in.
an opportunity to learn & grow?
I hear this a lot. Comparison is the thief of joy. Disagree! In my experience comparison becomes the thief of joy when it is rooted in pride. Pride pushes me to ask, Am I better or worse than you? Is my situation better or worse than yours? How much better or worse? Pride is the real thief of joy.
Comparison is simply an opportunity to learn & grow. Comparison can be grounded in appreciation not pride. Appreciation for differences & most certainly similarities, not better or worse qualifications.
Comparison allows me to know that I am me & you are you & that is ok. We are the same & different just as God made us.
It is natural to compare. It is a God given ability & a gift when used appropriately. Embrace opportunities to compare in a meaningful way, from a position of appreciation & the thief of joy holds no power.
Garden: a rich, well-cultivated region, a fertile or delightful spot. Garden: to tend a region cultivating richness, to care for a spot enhancing fertility and delightfulness. My garden is a place and what I do in that place. Location and activity wrapped into one. A sanctuary that requires sanctifying. My hands and heart working with what God gives. Earth, water, sunshine, air. Wisdom, seeds, life. Bringing beauty to behold and reminders that for all things there is a season.
My Grandmother’s name is Jeanette but we call her Buddy. Everyone calls her Buddy. They have called her Buddy for most of her life. When I examine this wonderful woman’s life, I see a vessel spilling over with joy. My memories of her are warm smiles, bubbly laugh, hugs and a work ethic that amazes me even now that she is in her 80s. She still volunteers at the hospital and cares for all the people in her life when she can.
My Grandmother and I are wrapped in a bond that I cannot quite describe. When I experience a traumatic event I rely on her Faith. Although she is not physically with me, I draw her strength into my being and know I can handle anything. This bond makes me understand more each day that the spirit and spunk that is part of me was passed from my Grandmother to my Mom and then to me.
My Grandmother is generous, loving and kind. She is also a woman who is opinionated and direct. I think she might have the ability to grant eternal forgiveness or curse those who do not adhere to the tenants that the God I was raised with demands of us. My Grandmother taught me truth when it comes to religion and a spiritual life. We must follow and set the example in lieu of worshipping and putting on pomp and circumstance. I love that she is a devout Catholic in a true sense of who Jesus would want all of us to be. I love that her devotion has touched my life helping unite me and a God that I understand in my daily life. As my Grandmother, my Blessed Buddy, reminds me, This Too Shall Pass. Time is a gift that God bestows upon us, an infinite endless eternal moment and a life that happens in the blink of an eye. If there is one lesson I carry with me from my Grandmother it is this-
Celebrate life wherever you find yourself with whoever is with you, and know that we are infinitely loved even when God throws us a curve ball. My Grandmother has definitely experienced plenty of those and walked through them with grace. Her laugh rings in my ears and my heart. I thank God for her every day and the love that we share. My life is truly blessed because of Buddy.
Carlsbad Caverns is one of my sacred places. On my first visit it felt familiar to me. On my second visit it was like coming home. I love the descent into the cavern. I love the rich, dank air. I love the space that surrounds me as I walk down into the depths of a womb in the earth.
I am taken by the intricate detail found inside.
Bacon strips clinging to the wall
Draperies fit for a castle
A single delicate bell cord dangling from the ceiling
Pull it and who knows who you will summon.
I love the history. A lone man in the desert seeing the bats in the distance and following them. Reaching a spot where he felt a rush of air coming from an opening in the land. Hanging down into the hole and reaching the end of his rope. Dropping into a black abyss and discovering a wonderland that his eyes could not behold. I could spend hours, days, months, years or moments in this space and feel right at home. Sitting, staring, listening.
It is hard to grasp the scale. Features look gigantic and minute at the same time. A moment of complete darkness might last an eternity. Take the King’s Palace tour and experience this moment of pitch black that makes you ask, What if? What if I were trapped here with no light? Sooner or later one guest on the tour gets quite uncomfortable and asks for the lights to be turned back on.
The first day that Mike and I spent in the cave, we acted like tourists with the hand held talky wand. We barely spoke and when we did it was in hushed whispers. Silence fills the immense space and this place is timeless.
Air flows steady, temperature regulates, everything about this cavern is calm, serene, peace. The only noise is drip, drip, drip. Maybe the sound of shuffling feet and an occasional gasp, squeal or whisper from a visitor captivated by the life that still resides in this womb.
After a surreal day in Death Valley, we are ready to rest. Pulling into the campground at Tecopa Hotsprings I am reminded of an old, abandoned drive-in theatre. RV Hookups look like the speakers for listening to the movie on the big screen. Bathroom buildings resemble concession stands. It is dusk and only the outlines of the area are visible.
We secure a spot to set up our tent. No sleeping in the back of the truck tonight. We crave relaxation and healing water of hot springs. The hot springs are sacred. No clothes allowed. Separate pools for ladies and gentlemen. The mineral soak is welcome. A hot shower feels divine after days on the road.
The wind sneaks in and whips the tent. A restless sleep, but I feel fresh in the morning. We wake to a rocky hill with a cross on top and decide to hike. It is called Mary’s Hill. A place for prayer and reflection.
The moments we cherish on this journey are simple, yet profound. Standing on a mound of rocks in the middle of the desert taking in the rugged reality that life offers. Trying to get a little dog to cooperate for a timed photo. Immortalizing our commitment to spending 4 months on the road, and taking in this land that will leave the landscape of our relationship richer.
Driving from Mt Whitney to Death Valley, the road descends onto a godforsaken landscape. It is flat, barren- carrying a false sense that it is devoid of life. If a visitor is willing to continue past this point, the desolation eventually bursts into one of the most mesmerizing places on earth. We were willing.
I never dreamt I would fall prey to the rapture of the desert. I never imagined the dryness of this place would seep into my soul, wetting an appetite for the harsh, extreme, stark beauty that exists in a Valley of Death. The road plastered to the earth stretches for miles. The asphalt runs in dips and bumps.
At times the road is completely covered. Weather compels the desert to encroach, making travel difficult or impossible. The desert wants it’s solitude back. It wants to remove the passage that allows travelers to visit. Earth piles up all around. A larger than life bulldozer pushed and pushed until towers of etched hills formed. Water and wind work to break them down. The earth wants it’s earth back. Back to the valley floor it comes in the most interesting ways.
In this dry place, water is the driving force for change. The texture, colors and depth are a whirlpool of wonder swirling- asking me to stay for days, weeks, months. There is too much to see. Too much to experience. Looking closely, the details are here and there. They are everywhere. Particularly, in the Devil’s Golf Course. In each space, around every corner, there is a whole new world. A world teaming with life found nowhere else.
Artist’s Loop creeps up. The colors are powdery pastels. Mixed with water they will paint the landscape. The loop clearly shows how water can rush in every crack and crevice or wash over everything.
Heat is the core of this place. Temperatures cook in the summer months. Volcanoes played a part in its creation. Craters remain to tell the story.
We stumble upon an unexpected surprise. Although it doesn’t always appear so, water is ever present in the desert. A castle is a fitting symbol in an oasis that provides life for anyone daring enough to travel this landscape.
We long to go in. We will have to wait. Light and warmth diminish quickly in the winter desert. Driving through the dark looking for a campsite is a daunting task. At our last stop, Zabrieski Point, where the sunset is divine we meet a couple who tells us about Tecopa Hotsprings. Tecopa will be our resting place. Camping for the night, we meet another element that drives the desert.
Four month road trip. A wild idea born in my imagination during a moment of freedom.
Stars aligned perfectly, providing opportunity for escape. Traveling from coast to coast and back again, a total of 13,000+ miles added to our Ford Ranger.
Mt Whitney. The campground was perfect- empty and free. Not the warmest time of year for camping at the base of a stone monstrosity. Being hardy campers we made due. The solitude of this area filled me with a sense of longing. One that I search for to this day and occasionally find in odd places. The weather was not cooperative to summit. Through a bit of exploring we found “movieland” in the Alabama Hills.
This is the kind of trip that solidifies a relationship- binding it in communion that never breaks or leads to one partner abandoning the journey to never look back.
The snow has been plentiful this season. Myriad individual flakes piled up to create a fluffy blanket.
Bitter cold created sparkling white glitter. While warmer temperatures brought snowcone slush. Gravity worked on the moisture, forming delicate daggers dripping so slowly that my camera could not catch them.
Observing the snow changing made me aware of transformation. Transformation: a thorough or dramatic change in appearance or form. Water takes many forms and appearances. Vapor, Clouds, Flakes, Slush, Ice …
Although it takes on many forms in many different places, over 95% of the water found on earth is found in the ocean. I have felt the fearful joy of being completely immersed by this seemingly infinite amount of water. It was an experience that reinforced my insignificant, significance on this planet. It was the place I felt most connected to the whole while realizing I am only a minute player in the grand scheme.
The snow transforming made me think about my own transformation. From an innocent babe with soft skin; to a kiddo who’s skin had to toughen up; to a young lady who wore her heart on her sleeve and wondered why it got broken. Now I am at a new stage in my life. I see the laugh lines around my eyes which remind me of all the good times. There are more stray strands of silver streaking my hair. They are a vivid reminder that my time here is limited.
I feel compassion creeping into my soul as I live through more experiences and relate to the struggles we all go through. Maybe the real reason I am focused on transformation is because I am staring a birthday in the face. I welcome the coming year knowing that just like water is transformed by forces greater than it, my next transformation is inevitable and will be driven by forces greater than me. It is this awareness that keeps me in the present moment able to appreciate the beauty of nature and the passion of life.
I have been barreling through life at break neck speed. Anytime anything happened that warranted grief I wrapped it up and put it on a shelf labeled “to deal with later”. It is finally later. I never fully understood loss and I don’t think I have ever really been capable of grief. Until now. Grief is not an emotion. It is a complex unraveling of an event or series of events in order to come to a place of understanding. I am letting go of something that is so intrinsically woven into the fabric of my being that it has been a slow, delicate surgery with no anesthesia to remove it. As the last pieces are peeled away from my core it dawned on me I think I am grieving. Looking back I think I have been grieving for awhile. The point at which the denial set in is not really clear, but this “thing” was clearly dead years ago. I clung to it like I was hanging on to a flotation device in open water. Anger has been a hornet’s nest that I kicked and just kept getting stung. Bargaining is sneaky, and I tried to make a million deals with it so I did not have to really face this. I found out that depression is a part of grief. This is not depression in the same sense of a person who suffers from depression. It is a subtle form of sadness, despair, dullness and apathy that soaks into flesh and bones and slowly sucks any remaining ounce of life out of the body and soul. I did not want to admit this feeling. Once I named it, a huge burden was lifted and energy is seeping back in giving fuel to my spirit. This thing that I am letting go of is just a thing, but everything I have been stock piling on that shelf labeled “to deal with later” tumbled down as I stacked this box on top. Acceptance hit me and whispered let go. Acceptance is the doorway to hope and healing. It is time to slow down. Take a breath. Let it all sink in and fully, completely grieve for a life I am done living.